42ND STREET | London, Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Come and meet those dancing feet… you won’t be disappointed. It’s a Busby Berkeley dance paradise: with a cast of dozens, the tap is still astonishingly tight and percussive, every head and hand perfectly in line, kicklines and jazz hands galore. A “synchronised swimming” number (achieved with a gigantic Art Deco mirror and subtle watery lighting) is a gorgeous, perfectly camp hommage to the Hollywood spectacles of the early 1930s. You can’t help but leave the theatre with your jaw dropped.

Based on the 1933 Hollywood film, 42nd Street the stage musical was created in 1980, shoehorning in tons of other classic songs from the era and updating the book to give contemporary audiences a wry and affectionate wave of nostalgia. The story follows adorable starry-eyed ingenue Peggy Sawyer, who gets a lucky break in her first Broadway musical and ends up (predictably) becoming a star.

Bizarrely, this new production seems to be fighting against the punch and satire of the silly and nostalgic book, presenting it as the genuine article and with no nod to 2017. Lines like “It’s your duty to be beautiful” are sung flatly by doe-eyed chorus girls; the star naturally gives up her career to get married; old people are portrayed as past-it and graceless, falling over to comic orchestral hits.  The enormous cast — of extraordinarily talented triple threats — is painfully undiverse.

The cast (including a sensational “For Your Eyes Only” Sheena Easton) and eighteen-piece big band knock out every glorious tune with power and pizzazz, but often with anachronistic orchestrations or vocal style, and has none of the strings or schmaltz of the era.  But, like the original film, it’s an undeniably impressive spectacle.  It’s a case of come for the dance and stay for the dance.

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